I ended my last post ‘Hide and Seek’ with some questions:
- What does it look like to take refuge in God?
- What else do I take refuge in and what does that look like? What light does that shed on what it looks like to take refuge in something?
- Does the object of my fear influence where I take refuge? AND.. if it does what do my caves tell me about my fears?
Basically I am asking: How do fears and refuges function in my life on a daily basis?
I hear my daughter telling the NTV that she doesn’t like praying with anyone anymore – she just wants to do it on her own. I fear that she is pushing us away from instructing her and training her in her walk with the Lord, I fear that she will stop praying and turn away from Jesus. My heart starts beating faster, I am frozen on the spot like a rabbit in the headlights and whatever I was doing or feeling or thinking gets chased away. It is just me and my fear and even as I unstick and continue it travels on through the day in the pit of my stomach.
There are 6 tasks all insisting on sitting at the top of my list. I start to do one, then I realise that I could just progress the other while I am waiting for something or other, I pause on that to kill a fly, realise my first choice was not the most urgent as there is something more pressing, but in order to do that I need to clear and tidy the kitchen, but that just seems too daunting a task, meanwhile I spot another fly and have to kill that! I stop because I just can’t order things in my mind. I feel I need the order that doing all the tasks will bring about, but I can’t order my thoughts enough to make it happen. I fear running out of time and not only remaining in disorder, but getting further and further into disorder as the next set of things start clamouring to get to the top of the list.
An email comes in and I don’t know how to take it, and/or what time to give to it, and/or how to draw out the action points from it. How do I love that person? How do I decide if I can help? How do identify the answers that are needed, then start to piece together the information required and do all of that without forgetting it needs to be done, and yet not just dropping something more important to get it done. Here the fear can be about the relationship, but also fear of not managing.
I know that the NTV isn’t there that evening for bible study and that I need to be in a state to host, and possibly facilitate, and that the children’s bed times and the tidiness of sitting room need to be appropriately advanced in time… Here I think I am fearing not so much what other people think of me, but rather the experience of stress that I will have trying to host in a mess at the same time as trying to be a patient loving mummy.
And so these lead balloons of fear and anxiety sit in the pit of my stomach and I am poised to fly like an animal being hunted or worse, to attack.
What is my refuge and strength in these moments?
- Getting out of the house – if I am not there I am somehow safe
- Tea or coffee – if I manage to enjoy something and give myself something nice then I exist outside of the stress and can resource myself
- Sleep/reading/doing a brain taxing puzzle – I have given myself that time and everything else waits outside. While I am ‘off duty’ the day moves on and there is less time to decide what to do with afterwards
- An engrossing TV programme that grabs my attention and tells me what to feel and promises to resolve it all for me (at least be the end of the series please!)
In other words my main fear is suffering mental/emotional discomfort and my main refuge is self comforting.
Even in the case of my daughter’s faith I think so much of my fear is about the feelings and pain I will suffer..
(I hated typing that – how horribly selfish and just wrong, but it is also horribly true. It isn’t the whole picture of my thoughts and feelings, but it is what is there in terms of the stabbing fear I feel in those moments)
Which is why I seek the refuges that I do. The escapes that numb and offer respite from the exhausting, gnawing anxiety.
I WANT to rest knowing that everything is done and everyone is safe in the Lord Jesus. That is when I feel good. So I FEAR (or at least want to avoid) anything that gets in the way of that. So I HIDE in a place where I can at least ignore the undone and the out of control.
Sorry about the specifics, but I hope they will take us to something more general. Why not pause and work it through for you? What do your days and habits and patterns of life tell you?
What do you WANT? What do you FEAR? Where do you HIDE?
So can we say that a refuge is..
A place of safety from, or at least separation from what we fear.
You fear a bomb dropping on your home, your refuge is (or rather would have been!) an Anderson Shelter
You fear a bull in a field, your refuge is the other side of the fence.
You fear getting fat, your refuge is eating less and exercising more.
You fear feelings of being out of control, your refuge is either order and staying in control or escaping to a place where you don’t need to be in control/it is easy to be in control.
You fear getting told off, your refuge is keeping all the rules perfectly, or running away from the person in charge.
Putting it the other way round: The refuge we are offered by someone in the know reveals the nature of the danger we are facing – whether we realise it or not.
So the refuge offered by a perfect and wise and loving Father will reveal the real danger we face, and also where our fears are the result of idolatry and pride.
So if God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble and if the one who fears the Lord can be confident, how do we need to assess our fears? How can we learn to live fearlessly in godly fear of the Lord?
More to follow….